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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Maker(s):Janssens, Abraham
Culture:Flemish (ca. 1575-1632)
Title:The Penitent Magdalene
Date Made:ca. 1620
Type:Painting
Materials:Oil on panel
Place Made:Europe; Flanders; Antwerp
Measurements:Frame: 58 1/2 in x 48 in x 4 in; 148.6 cm x 121.9 cm x 10.2 cm; Panel: 48 in x 38 1/2 in; 121.9 cm x 97.8 cm
Accession Number:  MH 2011.3
Credit Line:Gift of David Giles and Louise Carter in honor of John Varriano, Professor of Art History (1970-2009)
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Currently on view

Description:
Seated figure of a crying woman with long hair facing left, leaning her right elbow upon a skull while holding a crucifix in her left hand. The skull sits on top of a book. In the foreground there is a still-life arrangement of grapes, peaches, an apple and a melon. In the bottom left corner there is a small box, completely in shadow, and there is a chalice in the upper left corner. A distant landscape and blue sky are visible in the upper right corner.

Label Text:
One of a series of half-length, figural compositions undertaken by Abraham Janssens in the 1620s, this sumptuous painting of the Penitent Magdalen was intended for a private patron. Its owner would have savored the visual opulence of the pensive saint surrounded by jewels, silks, fruit, and a golden ointment jar, while also understanding the somber skull and crucifix as emblems of death and redemption. Janssens painted it during the Counter-Reformation, a period when the Catholic Church strongly encouraged penitence as the route to salvation. Traditionally described as a prostitute who became a devoted disciple of Christ, Mary Magdalen embodied notions of repentance and redemption. To this day, she remains a complex and mutable symbol of women and their place in the Church.

(Sept. 2016)

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